What is Black Hat Social Media Marketing?

Any SEO pro will tell you that the battle between white hat and black hat SEO is a constant and ever evolving one. However, the general consensus is usually that white hat will generally yield stronger results in the long run. Engaging in black hat techniques can bring fast results but the longevity of those results is precarious at best. In the past few years, the concept of black hat social media marketing has been on the rise, with many companies turning to devious tactics in order to promote their brand or business.

The line between black and white hat social media marketing may not be as clear as when it comes to search engine optimisation, however, it is a line that exists and should be adhered to. When it comes to social media, it is easier to disguise underhanded tactics or even to pass them off as a genuine attempt at user engagement. It also often happens that brands unintentionally lower the user experience by partaking in black hat tactics without really realising what they are doing.

The most common black hat social media marketing technique is one that has little to no value for the brand or for genuine followers. That is the practice of buying likes for a company page. This can be a seemingly easy way to make your brand look popular and well-established, but essentially you are doing nothing at all to help yourself. These paid-for ‘followers’ are never going to engage with your content or encourage others to do so. What’s more, is your brands reputation could be severely damaged if anyone were to find out that you were doing this. If your company is a relatively new one then it stands to reason that you would have a low number of likes and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Large follower numbers on a page with a small amount of activity is incredibly suspicious and doesn’t help to build your brand in any way. If you are tempted to purchase followers, then why not try creating interesting and engaging content first? By giving people a reason to interact with your brand, you can easily acquire real likes and real ongoing relationships.

There are a selection of social media automation tools in existence that aim to make social media management an easier task. Such tools can be great for sending out multiple messages, scheduling posts and managing followers, but they can also be used for spammy reasons that your users will not respond well to. When you acquire a new follower or like on your page, you might be tempted to send out a thank you message. This isn’t an especially black hat thing to do but you have to question what value this has to the user. They have chosen to like your page or follow you because they have observed something good or valuable about your brand; they are interested to follow your activity in the future. By immediately trying to interact with that person you are likely to put them off. Nobody likes to be contacted too much, especially by a brand and even more especially if that contact contains a call to action. Using automated software to send these messages is particularly bad practice as the tone can come across as quite impersonal and mass-produced. Avoid this problem and keep your followers by not harassing them!

There are many brands on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ who post content just for the sake of doing so. They don’t stop to question why they are doing it or what the value of this content is to the user. These brands aren’t necessarily doing something deliberately deceptive, they just haven’t truly understood the concept and worth of having a social media presence. If you are guilty of this activity then consider that you are not only putting potentially worthless content out into the web but you are also clogging up the news feeds of those who follow you. You will more than likely find that these people soon choose to unfollow or unlike you. This is, of course, not a trend that you should be encouraging! So, keep it relevant, keep it interesting and with every post you send out, ask yourself the question, “is anybody going to gain something or learn something of use by reading this content”? If the answer is no, then don’t click share!

Your online reputation can have a serious effect on the success of your business. Don’t compromise this reputation by fumbling your social media efforts. Spend some time understanding who your audience are and what they are likely to respond positively to. Additionally, take some time to learn at least the basics of each platform, it will be time very well spent in the long-run.